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Luann
Luann, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 158
Experience:  Licensed Psychologist, 24 years experience working with children, adolescents, families and adults.
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During the past few months my 7 year old son has had progressivley

Customer Question

During the past few months my 7 year old son has had progressivley more difficulty answering questions, even as simple as "did you was your hands?" before dinner. He is an excellent student, very outgoing and makes friends easily. His typical response has been, "Maybe I washed my hands", then he asks his 4 year old brother, "Did I was my hands". It is almost to the point where we cannot have a conversation with him. When asking his teacher if she noticed, she said that she has noticed but it hasn't affected his school work. He seems very anxious when we ask him questions and it seems that he doesn't want to give the wrong answer. Have you heard of this before? What should we do about it?
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Luann replied 6 years ago.

Luann :

Hello

Luann :

There could be several different reasons for your son's behavior. Children go through odd phases in their development. At 7 he is probably feeling a little more pressure at school and may just be a bit overwhelmed. He could be a little bit anxious or it could just be a phase. Time will tell. The important thing right now is your response or reaction which it sounds like you are paying attention to. Keep trying to avoid asking questions and ignoring his "maybe" responses. The less you make an issue out of it the better. Approach having to ask him a question in a different way, for example, if you want to know if he washed his hands, walk him through what he just did - "you just walked into the kitchen, where did you come from?" If he says bathroom, repeat, "so you were in the bathroom, what happened next?" Walking him through events/actions rather than asking if he did something or not may be more useful. Rather than asking him questions, ask him to describe things, to tell you something interesting and/or to tell you a funny thing that happened during his day. Again he may be feeling alittle stressed with school and the style of questioning that goes on there. Focus you conversations on lighter, funner topics when possible.

JACUSTOMER-xw2r4f19- :

when do I know when its time to get professional help

Luann :

I would wait a few more months, try some different ways to respond and see if he just moves onto something else that will perplex you. However, if his school work begins to suffer or it interferes with friendships, then I would seek help sooner. You role right now is to monitor the behavior, respond differently to see if that creates change and help him to grow in confidence.

Luann :

Positive self-esteem is achieved when we master things. Stay away from praise because those are your feelings about what he is doing. Focus on his feelings. For example, when he is able to tie his shoes, ride a bike, catch a ball, say something like, "you did it! doesn't that feel great?" Help him to develop an internal sense of good feelings when he is able to do a task.

JACUSTOMER-xw2r4f19- :

my wife and I are very frustrated and its hard to keep ignoring his answers/non-answers. Its been a tough week with everyone home for the holidays and couped up with viruses and colds. We feel like we need to talk to someone. Where do we start.

Luann :

If you are feeling that frustrated, I would definitely seek professional help. Start with just you and your wife going in to see a counselor/therapist who is skilled in working with children and families. Google "Family and Children's Services" or Lutheran Social Services" to see if they have programs in your area. These types of agencies have services for parents. Check with a local children's hospital and ask for family therapy/parenting resources.

Luann :

Check with the social worker or counselor at your son's school for local resources too.

JACUSTOMER-xw2r4f19- :

thanks

Luann :

I am sure the holidays were a stressful time for your son too. We all regress a little bit when under stress. Hopefully as you all get healthy and back into regular routines he will behave better too.

Luann :

Parenting is the toughest and most important job there is. You are wise to seek help and support when it is needed.

Luann :

Do you have any other questions?

Luann :

Goodbye and good luck!

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